SASKATOON — On April 17 Sister Dorothy Bertsch, OSU, celebrated 100 years. She was born in 1915 on the home farm near the village of Tramping Lake, Sask. That same day, she received her mother’s name, Gertrude, in the sacrament of baptism at St. Michael’s Church. At age eight, she received her first communion and confirmation in the same church.
On April 19 about 75 of Sister Dorothy’s family and community came together at St. Angela Merici Retirement Residence in Saskatoon. The program featured congratulations in word and song. Sister Rosetta presented in PowerPoint a biographical history of Sister Dorothy’s life. Bishop Gerald Wiesner celebrated a mass of thanksgiving. (He had been a student in Sister Dorothy’s first communion class). Tributes came from Bishop Donald Bolen of Saskatoon and a former student, Gerald Vandergraaf. A banquet followed, and visiting followed well into the evening.
Relatives reminisced about how Gertrude by age nine took on the responsibilities placed on her by her mother’s serious illness. She did household chores, washing, cooking, baking, tending a four-year-old, even as she helped her siblings with their homework by the light of a coal-oil lamp.
In her heart, she knew she would one day go to Prelate to become a sister. The Ursuline Sisters had come to Tramping Lake in 1925, and Gertrude admired them. In 1933 she was received into her new life with them.
Two years later, Sister Dorothy was teaching. Dante, a rural school (Grades 1-9), was the first assignment and she taught there for three years. The Dirty ’30s meant hard work and few books. It meant $400 a year for a salary, a January to March period of being snowed in, and a trip to Prelate for Easter.
Additional certification followed from Moose Jaw Normal School, followed by 45 years of teaching in Rural Glen Eden, Revenue, Billimun, Denzil, Goodsoil, Barthel, Liebenthal, Fox Valley, Quinton, Primate, and Cosine.
The teaching was not limited to the school hours. There were parish ministries: catechetics, workshops and meetings, sacramental preparations, sacristan work, decorating for ordinations, to mention a few bonus occupations.
Sister Dorothy celebrated her Golden Jubilee in 1985. For a brief time, she dabbled in the culinary arts at the generalate. A year later she served as receptionist, librarian and study supervisor at St. Angela’s Academy. Then came the day when a fall and surgery resulted in a change of address. St. Angela Merici Retirement Residence became home, where Sister Dorothy continues to give thanks for every one of her hundred years!
“My God stands by me, all my trust is in him.”